Many CPAs reach a point in their career when they need to campaign for a new job or a promotion. Here is how to tell a compelling personal story that gives you the best chance to land the position you want.
Create your narrative. You need to consider a few elements of your story: how to project it to others, how well it fits the position you're looking for, how honest and credible it is, and whether it coincides with the way others see you. So, what's your story? Are you a rainmaker? A quietly brilliant tactician? Someone who's known for great client service? Know what your capabilities and strengths are and are not in terms of technical skills (tax, audit, closing the books, etc.) and soft skills (ability to manage staff, deal with stress, oral and written communication, etc.).
Understand how your style reflects your story. Your personality, ability to communicate, and the image you present upon walking into a room all come into play. You need to prepare to tell your story well, which may mean rehearsing what you'll say about your professional successes and achievements (and shortcomings, too). In effect, you should have a personal brand and one that is well-crafted.
Think about fit. Your style needs to match the organization you want to join or the position you are trying to reach. In the workplace, a CPA may be seen as a lone ranger or as a "we're in this together" type. A CPA may also be seen as a leader, a go-getter type, or as a follower, a great second in command. None of these types are necessarily right or wrong, but they may not be right for a certain work environment, position, or culture.
Get aligned. Ensure that your story aligns with the opportunity being offered. For example, if you're interviewing with a small CPA firm where no one really manages staff aside from the partners, then stating that you are seeking a growth opportunity where you can gain experience supervising staff most likely will not land you the job. Be realistic about whether you're a good match for the role and duties you are being considered for, including title, salary, expected hours, and commute.
Be true. Credibility matters, too. Present yourself in such a way that you remain true to yourself and consistent, including in your résumé, emails, cover letters, applications, and online and physical presence. Make sure that your story is factual and can be verified.
Consider others' views. Your story needs to correspond with the way others perceive you. If you view yourself as a great collaborator, but your team members think you're unwilling to compromise, the mismatch can affect how you're viewed. Assessing yourself so that you can tell a story that others can agree with may not be as easy as you think.
Editor's note: This checklist is adapted from "How to Campaign for Your Next Career Move," CPA Insider, Oct. 17, 2016.
—By Beth A. Berk, CPA, CGMA, an independent recruiter based in Maryland. To comment on this article, contact Ken Tysiac (firstname.lastname@example.org), an AICPA editorial director.